fostering

An open apology to my friends with kids.

Dear Friends, Family and Loved Ones with children,

Please accept this note as my formal apology if you have ever felt judged by me on your parenting skills. At any point in our friendship. Ever. Let me also apologize for any comments I have made to you or your child that felt hurtful, unhelpful or unkind. Especially those that might have come in the heat of battle. Or in that last moment of sanity. Or after the crappiest day possible. Please accept this heartfelt and humbled out apology. Forgive me, I had no idea.

Love, Love, Love,

Your childless friend who just fostered a teenager

 

Six months ago, I became a foster person to a wonderful freshman girl who I affectionately refer to as the FFK (Future foster kid) It’s a term I started using before fostering and it stuck.

How fostering a teenager has changed my life.

  1. I am now constantly aware of the status of my leg hair. “Ooo, your legs feel like wana.” (Hawaiian for sea urchin)

  2. My eyebrows are analyzed on a daily basis. Never underestimate Kylie Jenner’s influence on the next generation.

  3.  I have laughed more in the last six months than I have in the past six years. And we are talking good laughs. Belly laughs. The soul cleansing kind. The kind that catch you off guard and make you smile every time you remember them. This kid is funny. Witty. Sharp. And she keeps you on your toes. Trust fall.

  4. I am learning to pick my battles. For example, not so long ago, my beloved FFK was sitting a few rows ahead of me at church. Shooting spitballs. Slightly mortified, I turned to the veteran foster mama sitting beside me and said, “What do I do?” She whispered back, “You choose you battles.” Now my gut reaction was spitballs in church? Heck yes that is a battle I am going to fight! But then I remembered this little girl isn’t my flesh and blood. I did not raise her. She came to me with ideas and notions and a way of life that I am not privy to. So in the big scheme of things, the  fact that she turns in her phone at night without a fuss,  faithfully cleans the bathroom without complaint and is kind, thoughtful and respectful in her interactions with me, are way more important. And as much it killed me to do so, I could let the spitballing slide. And I did. And not a few seconds later one of her friends regulated her behavior. Thank you Jesus.

  5. I am learning to extend way more grace to others. Before the FFK, there have been many times I have wondered why a parent would let their child _(fill in the blank)_. Sometimes I have commented on it. Other times I have just wondered in my head. After the spitballing incident of 2016 I realized that maybe parents are just picking their battles. Because no one wants to be the heavy all the time. And no child responds well to constant correction. And good night nurse there are so many things I want to correct. But I’m learning that picking battles, enjoying the moment and embracing them for who they are is what make shepherding so challenging and so rewarding all in the same breath.

  6. I am learning to care less about my couch. Right before the FFK arrived, I got a brand new sectional couch. It is blue. It is lovely. And it was not cheap. Within the first month of our time together, I heard myself on more than fifty occasions repeating phrases my mother said to me growing up (and possibly last Christmas). Don’t set your bowl directly on the sofa. Be careful. Hold your fork over your plate. Please don’t spill that on my sofa. Don’t use the pillow as a dinner tray. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. I was making myself crazy. And it wasn’t very fun. So I realized I had a choice to make. A) We could  eat at the table. Nope.We have manners night. That is enough.  B) I could make her eat on the rug. Not fair. C) I could just not care. Nope. D) Continue what we are doing, stop obsessing and have her clean any spills she makes. Ding. Ding. Ding. Mind you, I have a 10 year warranty so anything crazy would be taken care of. But that wasn’t the point. So I learned to relax. And she learned to be careful. And how to clean a couch cushion. Properly.As well as how to get Mexican candy juice of the carpet. But that, I am learning, is part of the deal. Messy grace. Messy lives. Messy love.

  7. I am learning when to panic. And when to keep my cool. The FFK is one pretty steady cookie. She sees the glass half full, likes to keep things light and fun, and focuses on the sunny side of life. She is not one to sit around and talk about feelings. Ever. But one time she thought I had accidentally disabled her phone. Boom. Waterworks. I was shocked. I had not seen so much as a tear in our time together so far but the fear of losing her music, photos and Instagram streaks brought on huge tears, a trembling voice and hiccups. It was bad. And it was fixable. Thanks to Brene Brown I have learned to ask myself, “Do we have enough information to panic?” and then go from there. We made it through.

  8. I’m learning to live with an open hand and engaged heart. This 13 year old girl will hopefully be reunited with her mom. Very soon. Which is a wonderful thing.  But it is also bittersweet.

God bless you. To all the parents. Of all types. You amaze and inspire me. What you are doing is such a worthwhile use of your time. Keep the faith. Keep running your race.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in my Head

Since writing this post, the FFK has been reunited with her mom. Yay!! It was such a joy to be able to offer her a safe place to land while her mom worked through some things. I loved everything about the experience. Some people have asked if I will do it again. Heck yes! I’m planning on spending some quality time with the fam this summer in Tennessee. And then come fall, I’m up for another adventure.

Why I Became a Foster Person

About six years ago I was lying in bed at my new apartment. I was all snuggled up under the covers, the last box unpacked and everything in it’s place. And a thought popped into my head.

If I’m still single in five years…I should look into fostering.

And then I drifted off to sleep.

Time passed.

I met people who told me that the system is horrible. That it is broken and they send kids back to terrible situations. “Don’t do it,” people said. “It will break your heart.”

And I thought, “Ok. Maybe I won’t.”

More time passed. And I was invited to help out with Camp Agape, a weekend camp for kids whose parents are incarcerated. My first year there I was blown away. I was in a cabin with little girls ranging from five to fifteen. And as the weekend progressed and the walls came down, the stories that these little girls shared…broke my heart.

But I realized something.

There was a common thread woven through their stories.

No matter what their parents had done to them, these little girls wanted their parents. The just wanted them whole.

I should really foster.

Now by this time, God had already changed the trajectory of my current life. I was studying for the Praxis and headed back to school to become a teacher.

And in a surprising plot twist, I got hired to teach on the OTHER SIDE of the island. This was not what I had signed up for when I agreed to change jobs. Because when I felt the call to teach, I knew I wanted to be invested in the community. I wanted to see my students outside of school and be able to build relationships with their families. So a job on the Westside, meant moving to the Westside.

I’m already giving up my life at the church. Do I really have to give up my life in Kihei?

I’ll be honest. This whole process has been very baffling to me. Because in a million years, I never imagined I would become a foster person. (I hate using the word parent because these kids have parents. I’m their person. For a season.) It was never on my list of things to do. Ever. But I knew in my heart that the Lord wanted me to keep moving forward with it. One step of obedience at a time.

So I did.

And as I began my first year teaching on the Westside, I realized how much space I had in my life. For another person. I could easily foster a high school girl. The middle school where I teach is right down the road from the high school.

So I made a little petition of the Lord. If you want me to foster, will you find me an affordable two bedroom in Lahaina? The words affordable and Lahaina don’t really go together.

He did.

I moved October of last year. And started the training to become a “Resource Care Giver” which is the states new way of saying foster person.

The training.

It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. On the heart.

Because the reality is, there are children who are trapped in terrible situations. Because the adults in their lives make selfish choices born out of their own brokenness.

And the foster care system is designed to give those kids a safe place while their parents heal. That is the big vision.

It doesn’t always work that way.

But it can.

So last May I completed the training. And got my certificate.

And in the Lord’s amazing timing, two weeks after my ACL surgery, just when I could start driving again…

I got the call. To become someone’s person. And offer a safe place to a very vibrant and intelligent 13 year old while her mom gets some things figured out.

Next week, it’ll have been three months. And it has been a blast.

Not always easy but so very worth it.

I’ll tell you more about that later.

 

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives In My Head